Li-bra-ry Cafe! A Bangkok cafe that knows how to charm!
When I arrive at a new destination or even ones that I frequent, one of the first things I do is hit up a local cafe that may shed some light on its local secrets and charms. There is no better way to gain some inspiration other than from some warm locals. After a book shop assistants recommendation, I headed to Li-bra-ry cafe! A gem of a joint, cutely encrusted in the hip, back street burbs of Sukhumvit.
Sukhumvit is well-known for its penchant for pop up organic and fair-trade stores that are reshaping the mad consumer-opolis of Bangkok. You will notice that there are many food spots and gift stores that tote the O-word…organic! which is encouraging to see especially in this vibrant city.
Well anyway lets get you through the doors of Li-bra-ry cafe because I am craving an afternoon coffee.
It is tucked away in Sukhumvit soi (street) 24. As soon as your turn into the street corner I am entranced by an olfactory concoction of roasting coffee beans, pandan cake, waffles and base notes of macadamia and toffee nut latte. I am hooked. You may be thinking “a derrrr it’s a cafe!” but believe me when I say so, the aroma that omnipotently lingers in the cafe space is insatiable…seemingly tangible.
Unlike a lot of the cafes in downtown Bangkok, Li-bra-ry has a calm surrender and a sweet hum about the goings on and chatter of hipster college kids to a design team having a meeting over a coffee on their new interior renders on their laptops. You are further reminded that you are in an authentic Bangkok establishment when you hear that they are playing freshly whipped cover tunes of the latest indie pop songs by airy voiced, no namers mixed in with some classic bossa nova by the legendary Lisa Ono. This place has a perfect balance of kitsch. I throw myself on one of their retro mid century, super cushy lounges with my latest kinfolk magazine and my camera and moleskine, ready to document my encounter.
The interior abounds in its simplicity. Whites-on-white. A very neat colour palette, ranging from stark milk paint white walls, soft hues of creamy hemp linen placemats and coasters, teak brown polished wood grains for its counter tops and communal book shelf which hence lends its self to being called the Li-bra-ry. The bookshelf wall acts as a partition to another seating area that is also an art gallery displaying very white minimal photo prints by a local photographer.
The couches and coffee tables throughout the cosy space is very mid century without the rigid tackiness one may assume of this era. Hang on…actually there is a wooden rocking horse hangin out in the corner. LOL I spoke too soon. How could I have forgotten to mention the ecliptic woven light fixtures suspended from the soaring ceiling. They seem to be inspired by mobius strips blooming like a rose Unbe-weavable! As random as that sounds thats how I would describe it hahahaha.
There is a loft upstairs which requires you to take your shoes off like any respectful asian house. There are more bookshelves and brown cushions to sit on which reminds me of a korean hanok. However I see it is quite warm up here so I just duck into the washroom wearing the communal japanese su’ri’pa. The washroom is exceptionally clean, and reminds me of some mid century family house.
After a chat with the friendly wait staff about their menu. I ask them about the green 3D waffle pillars that I see the locals have all ordered. So I order one for myself to see what all the rage is with their signature Li-bra-ry Waffle. I also order their homemade brownie donuts, thai style coffee (Long black with sweet condensed milk) followed by an Iced Americano.
Presentation is simply perfect with handcrafted hemp coasters and the drinks are accompanied by a canapé bowl of coconut meringue droplets. I am addicted to these. They crunch like popcorn and then disintegrate on contact with your saliva like a ghostly kiss. The mystery over the waffle craze at Li-bra-ry! is completely solved when you bite into it. Perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside just as you would want a waffle to be. The waiter explains that they are pandan green and are hand rolled when they are taken off the cast iron mould to achieve its iconic sculptural height. Just order 2 to be on the safe side! The mini brownie donuts come in a bamboo steam box and they are scrumptious. Just as they are described. They are a perfect hybrid of a brownie and donut. This would be better paired with their matcha green tea shake than my thai style coffee but I see why people keep coming back here for their handmade sweets.
I must say that Bangkok boasts a plethora of conceptual and well conceived cafe spaces giving even top Seoul cafes a run for its money, however the Li-bra-ry achieves top grades without trying too hard. And that to me is the perfect ingredient in all its splendour. I rest my case. One of my favourite cafes in Asia. A place you can come to rest, be tantalised by the in house handcrafted sweets, to daydream, breathe deeply, to be a voyeur, to feel satiated and leave somewhat inspired. Li-bra-ry cafe! Just go!
Get to Phrom Phong BTS station (E5 on the Sukhumvit line) and get out towards to Hilton Hotel Sukhumvit st and walk down till you see soi (street 24) and the wafting aroma will guide you through the rest. Enjoy.